Mass campaign growing to save Swansea coastguard station
'Storm' of opposition hits the ConDems
Coastguards and the people of Swansea are reeling following the shock announcement that Swansea Coastguard station is to close with the result of 28 job losses. Over 200 people packed into Oystermouth primary school, Swansea on July 22nd to hear coastguards and local campaigners make the case for saving Swansea Coastguard Station.
The original proposal was to close Milford Haven station and downgrade Swansea to a daylight hours only service. Now the ConDem Government has done a U-turn and proposes to close Swansea, the busiest coast-guard station in Wales, although Milford Haven has had a reprieve.
Sian Thomas a PCS rep who was heavily involved with the Milford Haven campaign said “It is brilliant news that Milford and other stations are to be kept open and shows that campaigning does work. However the closure of Swansea is unnecessary and dangerous to the people who unfortunately need the coastguard service each year. The coastguard service needs more resources not less and proves the government’s stance on cuts is just an ideological, politically-driven excuse to decimate the public sector”.
The ludicrous excuse put forward to close Swansea was that the Department for Transport already employs a large number of people in the area. It is true that around 5,000 people work at the DVLA in Swansea but multi-talented as they may be, it is unlikely that DVLA workers will be rescuing people around the South Wales coast in the foreseeable future! For that we need the well trained, well motivated staff currently working at the coastguard station.
Swansea Coastguard station is one of the busiest stations in the UK, which covers one of the largest natural deepwater harbours in Europe and deals with a vast expanse including an area with three refineries, numerous beaches which have an extensive tourist trade and has to rescue an increasing number of people each year. Swansea Coastguard station also covers the Devon coastline and the Bristol Channel.
Last year the number of incidents that Swansea coastguards attended was more than 2000. This is another example of how the safety of people are being put at risk by the cuts and puts pay to the myth the front line services will not be affected.
It is ironic that the DVLA management have issued instructions that the petition to save the coastguard station must not be circulated in the work-place despite the fact that a consultation is in progress and the petition is circulating in workplaces and shops all over Swansea.
The public consultation (closing on 6 October) tries to steer respondents into choosing between Swansea and Milford Haven, but this divisive tactic must be resisted at all costs. In an emergency situation, every minute counts and local knowledge is essential to keep response times to a minimum. Very often, the people finding themselves in danger are holiday makers who are not familiar with local geography and find it difficult to explain exactly where they are. Sometimes the names of small coves or headlands etc are not found on maps. That is why local services are needed, not only in Swansea but in Milford Haven and all over the UK.
A PCS member working for Coastguard addressed Swansea Trades Council. Delegates were left in no doubt that the campaign to save the coastguard station in Swansea has to be part of a national campaign to retain all current coastguard services; to save Swansea at the expense of shutting, for example, Milford Haven, would be to simply shift the problem elsewhere.
The July 22nd meeting formed a campaign committee, which will be very active in opposing this dreadful proposal over the coming weeks and the coastguards' trade union the PCS will be to the forefront of that campaign.
In a very real sense, this cut will kill and the campaign to stop it happening is gathering force. The storms that sweep over Swansea bay will be nothing to the storm of protest that will be directed against the Secretary of State for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguards Agency unless they drop this proposal.
All visitors to this site are urged to sign the on-line petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-swansea-coastguard.html and respond to the consultation on the Department for Transport web site.
Please leave messages of support on the Save Swansea Coastguard facebook page.
Carrie-Anne Watkins, Sian Thomas & Dave Warren (all PCS South West Wales), Ronnie Job (Swansea Trades Council)
If you agree with what you read, then you should join us!